Last Friday's column noted how striped bass anglers were once again bailed out by the Hudson River spawning stock which produced consistent fishing in that river plus Raritan Bay while the coastal migratory was slow again in the spring before providing some shots of hot action off Ocean County in the fall prior to a decent showing of school stripers that worked out well for the party boat fleet due to the change to a slot bass in the bonus bass program. The striper run was supported primarily by the abundance of bunkers, and that was also the primary food source for bluefish which were often a problem while seeking stripers. Big blues provided blitz fishing during the spring in the Barnegat Bay area. The most consistent action was on the Barnegat Bay side, where anglers often scored by casting lures from docks on the bay.  On May 3, my son Mike and I plus Mike Koblan of Wall joined Capt. Russ Binns of Toms River on his Mar-Lin as Binns only ran the short distance from his home to the Rt. 37 Bridge before we saw swirls and had constant surface action with large poppers off Good Luck Point on long drifts. The blues averaged 5 to 8 pounds, with a few up to 10 pounds and we raised them on almost every blind cast in any direction --releasing at least 100 before returning around 10 a.m. As wild as that fishing was, those blues were so thick that it was just what was expected in the bay at that time. Though the blues looked to be in good shape, they didn't spit out anything to indicate what they were feeding on. Surfcasters did well with those blues in that area at times, but I never saw any repeat of the spring bluefish blitz of the year before in the Bay Head to Point Pleasant area. Other bluefish schools invaded Raritan Bay during May, and often made it almost impossible to get through to stripers while chunking or live baiting bunkers for several weeks. At the same time, party boats struggled to catch large blues in the ocean. Just as was the case in 2014, they ended up depending on schools of pee-wee blues during the summer. Fortunately, there were also lots of frigate mackerel among them to help fill coolers -- along with a few bonito to win the pool. Ironically, at that time there were a few larger blues being plugged in Shark and Manasquan rivers which could have won the pools on party boats that passed shore casters on their way out each morning. There were flurries of big blues for both boaters and surfcasters (particularly in the Sea Bright area) during the fall -- and there was great ocean bluefishing in early December as waters remained well over 50 degrees and a big run of sea herring developed. That was the first time since 2006 that I'd caught blues on pencil poppers well into December. To top it off, big blues joined with stripers for a surf blitz in Ocean County after Christmas. Fluke fishing was a mixed bag. As was also the case with other states, unnecessarily strict regulations prevented anglers from even filling the quota. Most party boat skippers I heard from weren't happy with either the size or volume of fluke. Brielle dentist and former Marine Fisheries Council member Pat Donnelly is a fluke pro who rarely falls short of a limit for his crew, and last year was no exception. He noted that fluking was better to the north of Manasquan Inlet, as his spots around wrecks to the south didn't pay off until the end of the season. It was also necessary to change techniques at times as bait occasionally worked better than the usual Gulp. I was surprised by the relative scarcity of even shorts in Raritan Bay during tagging trips. The only really good trip occurred on Aug. 29 when I joined Johnny Bucktails plus his father along with Dennis Tarnowski of Byram and Ryan Burlew from Keyport for a five-man limit of fluke well to the east on Cholera and Angler banks that were easy to reach at 40 mph with his 36-foot Sea Hunter from Keyport. The only positive was that we didn't come close to filling our summer flounder quota. That should make up for a mandated 29 percent cut in coastwise quota  for 2016, and will probably result in about the same regulations we had last year. Catches of huge blackfish continued last year, and got off to a quick start this year on Jan. 2 when Pete McCusker of Medford boated 23-pound, 10-ounce tautog while fishing a whitelegger crab from Ospey V in Atlantic City.  FISHING PROSPECTS Needless to say, there won't be any fishing this weekend unless the storm forecasts are completely wrong. Yet, Friday morning should be fishable -- and Capt. Jimmy Elliott will be seeking mackerel with the Golden Eagle from Belmar at 7:30. Thursday's trip was poor until he found mackerel in the last hour. Just as was the case Sunday, there were lots of herring for jiggers while the elusive mackerel were being sought. Even this slow start has produced more mackerel for Elliott than during the last two winters. Amazingly there are still striped bass in the picture. Capt. Al Crudele III, of Bayhound Charters in Sea Isle City got into lots of large bass just south of his inlet last Friday. Saturday was too rough, but he saw the clouds of birds Sunday out in federal waters beyond the three-mile state limit. Yet, Crudele's crew still jigged a limit of 35-inchers plus one "over" while fishing inshore. Crudele thinks those bass are overwintering there, and may not leave until it's time to move to southern spawning grounds. His Lowrance fishfinder was loaded with marks of fish and bait last Friday, and he even lost a jig to a tuna that hit among them. The Canyon Runner Seminar is coming up Jan. 30 in the Atlantic City Convention Hall, and the Atlantic City Boat Show moves in Feb. 3-7. The Salt Water Sportsman Seminar is set for Feb. 20 at Linwood Country Club. George Poveromo will be joined by Crazy Alberto Knie, Nick Honachefsky and South Jersey pros including Crudele. The $55 tickets can be ordered by calling 800 448-7360. Saturday, Feb. 13 is the date for the Hi-Mar Striper Club Fishing Flea Market and Seminars.
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